Profile: Jesse V. Johnson

Posted in Profiles by - January 02, 2021
Profile: Jesse V. Johnson

Date of birth: 29 November, 1971 (Winchester, UK)

Other names: Jesse Johnson, Jess Johnson, Jesse E. Johnson, Jessie Johnson, J.E. Johnson.

Occupation: Director, writer, stunt coordinator, second unit director, actor, stunt performer.

Biography: The director Jesse V. Johnson is the nephew of British stunt performer and coordinator, Vic Armstrong, famous for his roles as a stunt double in the Indiana Jones films, Flash Gordon, Superman and On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. One of Jesse’s earliest memories of being on a film set is carrying bags and assisting his uncle on the set of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989), when filming was taking place at Elstree Studios in London. Due to his family’s connections, his first work as a stunt performer was at the age of 17 on the Paul Verhoeven sci-fi classic, Total Recall (1990), starring Arnold Schwarzenegger. He would later work again with Verhoeven as a stunt performer on the film Starship Troopers in 1997, after relocating to Los Angeles in the mid-1990s.

In 1999, Jesse made his feature film debut as a director with The Doorman, marking Jesse’s first collaboration with the martial artist and stunt performer, Dominiquie Vandenberg. Jesse continued to write and direct his own films, which were mostly independent, low-budget action films. In 2005, when making the film Pit Fighter, Jesse was advised by his director friend, Isaac Florentine, to offer a cameo to the fledgling young British actor, Scott Adkins.

Jesse’s films from this period include The Last Sentinel (2007), starring Don “The Dragon” WilsonAlien Agent (2007) with Mark Dacascos, and The Fifth Commandment (2008), starring Rick Yune and Roger Yuan. In 2009, Jesse’s film The Hitman Diaries: Charlie Valentine, won an award for Best Screenplay at the Monaco International Film Festival. The film also won Best Picture at the Action on Film (AOF) Film Festival in Pasadena, California.

In between working on his own projects – and after completing work on The Package (2013) starring Dolph Lundgren and Steve Austin – Jesse returned to stunt performing and coordinating. His career as a stunt performer and stunt coordinator includes Mars Attacks! (1996), Mercury Rising (1998), The Thin Red Line (1998), Galaxy Quest (1999), Charlie’s Angels (2000), Planet of the Apes (2001), Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (2003), War of the Worlds (2005), Mission: Impossible III (2006), Beowulf (2007), Avatar (2009) and The Amazing Spider-Man (2012). He worked on Lincoln (2012) with Steven Spielberg, The Master (2012) with Paul Thomas Anderson, and Thor (2011) with Kenneth Branagh; and it was when working as a stunt performer with these directors that he decided to reconsider his own career as a director.

In 2015, Jesse made the black-and-white art film, The Beautiful Ones, released in 2017. He returned to the world of low-budget fight films with his next project, Savage Dog (2017), which reunited Jesse with Scott Adkins. He followed Savage Dog with five more martial arts films, all starring Scott Adkins: Accident Man (2018), The Debt Collector (2018), Triple Threat (2019), Avengement (2019) and Debt Collectors (2020), a sequel to The Debt Collector.

Jesse V. Johnson married the actor and producer, Jamie Zozzaro, in 1999. Together they have two daughters. He lives in Los Angeles.

Speech! “You’re always desperately trying to up your game… that’s the drive, that’s the burning desire. You’re never, ever happy. You’ve got to be careful when you are watching your own pictures, and if you’re looking at your finished film and saying, ‘I’m happy with that’ – well, no, you’re not, of course not.” In conversation with Kung Fu Movie Guide Podcast, 2018.

Click here to listen to KFMG Podcast S03 Episode 32 with Jesse V. Johnson.

Filmography (as director): 1998 Death Row: The Tournament (short) (+ pro, scr.); 1999 The Doorman (+ scr.); 2002 The Honorable (+ pro, scr.); 2005 Pit Fighter (+ scr.); 2007 The Last Sentinel (+ scr.); 2008 The Fifth Commandment; 2009 The Hitman Diaries: Charlie Valentine (+ scr.); Green Street Hooligans 2; The Butcher (+ scr.); 2013 The Package; 2017 The Beautiful Ones (+ pro, scr.); Savage Dog (+ pro, scr.); 2018 Accident Man; The Debt Collector (+ scr.); 2019 Triple Threat; Avengement (+ scr.); The Mercenary; 2020 Debt Collectors (+ scr.).

Visit IMDb.com for a full list of Jesse V. Johnson’s credits.

This post was written by
Editor and creator of Kung Fu Movie Guide and the host of the Kung Fu Movie Guide Podcast. I live behind a keyboard in London, UK.

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